Lee (20), a university student, recently bought a cell phone and now carries two cell phones with him: one for making phone calls and one for playing games. He has a computer and a video game console at home, but he has become more attracted to playing mobile games with his cell phone. He started playing mobile phone games in 2002 and has downloaded about 400 games since then. He currently has about 30 downloaded games in his two cell phones.
There were times when I paid more than 100,000 won a month for mobile phone games, but on average I pay between 30,000 to 40,000 won in a month, said Lee. He added that although the picture quality is not as good as that of computer games or video games, mobile games are more attractive in terms of mobility, which enables him to play games whenever and wherever he wants.
According to Marketing Insight, a consumer research institute, 14 million out of 37 million cell phone subscribers in Korea play mobile games. To put it another way, four out of every 10 people are mobile gamers. More specifically, 2.3 million play mobile games everyday, accounting for 6.2 percent of the total cell phone subscribers, including 15 percent of cell phone users in their teens and twenties.
As the popularity of mobile games soars among teenagers and workers, there is a growing concern over mobile game addiction. Indeed, mobile games are increasingly causing distractions at workplaces and classes.
Chung (27), who stared working two years ago, was recently scolded by his boss for disappearing into the restroom four to five times a day to secretly play mobile games when he should be working. At first, I played mobile games only during my commute, but these days, my mind is preoccupied with the games even in the office, Chung confessed.
Song (22), a university student, also admitted that he plays mobile games for three to four hours a day. Sometimes, he would get so absorbed into the games that he would miss his stop on the subway. Song added many of his classmates sit in the back of the classroom and play mobile games during class.
Experts agree that the biggest problem with mobile games is the difficulty in determining whether one is addicted to the games or not.
According to psychiatry professor Yoon Soo-jung of St. Pauls Hospital, many teachers complain about students playing mobile games in class, and it is difficult for parents to notice their childrens mobile game addiction as children can easily hide their mobile game playing, unlike Internet games.
Oh Won-i, the head of the Information Misuse Prevention and Research Center at Korea Agency for Digital Opportunity and Promotion, also pointed out that due to the ubiquity of cell phones, it is hard to draw a clear definition of mobile game addiction despite its great adverse effects. In addition, he emphasized the need for concerted efforts from mobile phone operators to establish a program to prevent mobile game addiction.